NASA uses 450,000 gallons of water to shield launch vehicles from acoustic damage

NASA uses hundreds of thousands of gallons of water during launches to suppress vibration during liftoff: "a curtain of water around the engines to dampen the loudness of the test and protect the core stage from noise damage". Here's the system being tested!

Water flowed during a test at Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. About 450,000 gallons of water flowed at high speed from a holding tank through new and modified piping and valves, the flame trench, flame deflector nozzles and mobile launcher interface risers during a wet flow test at Launch Complex 39B. At peak flow, the water reached about 100 feet in the air above the pad surface. The test was a milestone to confirm and baseline the performance of the Ignition Overpressure/Sound Suppression system. During launch of NASA's Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, the high-speed water flow will help protect the vehicle from the extreme acoustic and temperature environment during ignition and liftoff.

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Surveillance advocate Eric Schmidt is stepping down as head of Google parent company Alphabet

Eric Schmidt, the ex-Sun CEO who came onboard at Google to be the "adult supervision" for the founders and who has repeatedly declared privacy dead and dismissed people who worried about surveillance business-models as unrealistic nutcases, is stepping down as head of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. Read the rest

Amputee monkeys learn mind control methods to manipulate robotic arm

Neuroscientist Nicho Hatsopoulous and his team taught monkeys that lost limbs through accidents how to control a robotic arm. The work has profound implications on what they call the brain-machine interface.

Via University of Chicago

“That's the novel aspect to this study, seeing that chronic, long-term amputees can learn to control a robotic limb,” said Nicho Hatsopoulos, PhD, professor of organismal biology and anatomy at UChicago and senior author of the study. “But what was also interesting was the brain’s plasticity over long-term exposure, and seeing what happened to the connectivity of the network as they learned to control the device.”

Here's the basic setup in a similar lab with non-amputee monkeys. The monkey gets juice or some other treat for successfully completing the tasks.

Here's a detailed lecture on the current work in the field:

Changes in cortical network connectivity with long-term brain-machine interface exposure after chronic amputation (via University of Chicago) Read the rest

Tim O'Reilly's WTF? A book that tells us how to keep the technology baby and throw out the Big Tech bathwater

Tim O'Reilly has his finger on the pulse of technology and the people who make it in a way that is unmatched by anyone in the world; the publisher of the world's best-loved computer books, the host of technology's best-loved conferences, the convenor of the most important conversations about tech and its people, O'Reilly is literally uniquely situated to understand the arc, trajectory, and possible destinations of technology and its impact on real people, which is what separates his breakout business book, WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us, from rest of the field.

The ethics of upgrading your brain with implants

Computational neuroscientist Anders Sanberg is a senior research fellow at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute where he explores the ethics of future human enhancement through AI, genetic engineering, and brain implants. IEEE Spectrum's Eliza Strickland interviewed Sanberg about the ethics of augmenting your wetware with neurotech:

Spectrum: Do you worry that neurotech brain enhancements will only be available to the wealthy, and will increase the disparities between the haves and have-nots?

Sandberg: I’m not too worried about it. If the enhancement it is in the form of a device or pill, those things typically come down in price exponentially. We don’t have to worry so much about them being too expensive for the mass market. It’s more of a concern if there is a lot of service required—if you have to go to a special place and get your brain massaged, or you have to take a few weeks off work for training, the prices for those services won’t come down because they’re based on salaries. The real question is, how much benefit do you get from being enhanced? You have to consider positional benefits versus absolute benefits. For example, being tall is positionally good for men, tall men tend to get ahead in work and have better life outcomes. But if everyone becomes taller, no one is taller. You only get the benefit if you’re taller than everyone else. Many people who are against enhancement use this argument: Enhancement leads to this crazy race and we’re all worse off.

Spectrum: So even if a cognition-enhancing device became available, you don’t think everyone should get one?

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Support Internet visionary Howard Rheingold's Patreon

Boing Boing pal Howard Rheingold is an Internet culture visionary. In fact, he was probably the first Internet culture visionary. Since 1984, he's written about the intersection of technology, consciousness and media in foresight-filled books like Tools for Thought (1985), Virtual Reality (1991), The Virtual Community (1993), Smart Mobs (2002), Net Smart (2012), and researched the power of cooperation with Institute for the Future. Howard's paintings and sculptures are deeply psychedelic, beautiful, and weird. Howard's work has had a massive impact on my life since I first went online in the 1980s and I feel fortunate to call him my friend. Now, Howard has launched a Patreon to support his continued efforts to change minds and move culture.

As Howard once said, "Openness and participation are antidotes to surveillance and control."

Support Howard Rheingold on Patreon.

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How PowerPoint was created

In 1987, a company called Forethought, founded by two ex-Apple marketing managers, rolled out PowerPoint and business meetings have never been the same since. Over at IEEE Spectrum, David C. Brock tells the story:

(Robert Gaskins) envisioned the user creating slides of text and graphics in a graphical, WYSIWYG environment, then outputting them to 35-mm slides, overhead transparencies, or video displays and projectors, and also sharing them electronically through networks and electronic mail. The presentation would spring directly from the mind of the business user, without having to first transit through the corporate art department.

While Gaskins’s ultimate aim for this new product, called Presenter, was to get it onto IBM PCs and their clones, he and (Dennis) Austin soon realized that the Apple Macintosh was the more promising initial target. Designs for the first version of Presenter specified a program that would allow the user to print out slides on Apple’s newly released laser printer, the LaserWriter, and photocopy the printouts onto transparencies for use with an overhead projector...

In April 1987, Forethought introduced its new presentation program to the market very much as it had been conceived, but with a different name. Presenter was now PowerPoint 1.0—there are conflicting accounts of the name change—and it was a proverbial overnight success with Macintosh users. In the first month, Forethought booked $1 million in sales of PowerPoint, at a net profit of $400,000, which was about what the company had spent developing it. And just over three months after PowerPoint’s introduction, Microsoft purchased Forethought outright for $14 million in cash.

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The Comic Book Story of Video Games goes deep

The Comic Book Story of Video Games: The Incredible History of the Electronic Gaming Revolution, by Jonathan Hennessey (author), and Jack McGowan (illustrator) is an entertaining full-color book about the roots of video games. It starts with the discovery of electricity and the birth of electronic digital computers in in World War II and ends with augmented reality games like Pokemon Go. In between we learn about the origins of Pong, Doom, Nintendo, Sega, and more. I feel like I learned as much as I ever want to know about video game history in one pleasant afternoon. This would make an excellent gift for kids who want to learn about the pioneers of video games.

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New methods can 3D print high-strength aluminum alloys

Unweldable materials like aluminum alloys can now be fused using additive manufacture techniques. HRL Laboratories did this interesting demonstration. Read the rest

Quinn Norton on sexual assault, community response, and restorative justice

In the early 2010s, Quinn Norton (previously) was sexually assaulted by Robert Scoble (previously), a well-known technology exec and anti-privacy advocate while attending O'Reilly Media's FOO Camp, a private tech gathering that has a well-earned reputation as a safe and congenial space. Read the rest

A curiously incomplete history of the early years of DRM

Ernie Smith's Motherboard article on the early years of DRM gets into some fascinating stories about things like IBM's Cryptolope and Xerox PARC's Contentguard (which became a patent troll), Intertrust's belief that it is "developing the basis for a civil society in cyberspace" and the DeCSS fight. Read the rest

Here is Apple's self-driving car prototype

Here are new images of Apple's self-driving car technology (Project Titan) mounted on a Lexus RX350. That gear on the top is a rack of six LIDAR sensors that use lasers to collect spatial data about the vehicle's surroundings.

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Stephen Fry's lecture on a hopeful, cautious, excited vision of a better technological world

Stephen Fry's hour-long Shannon Luminary Lecture at Bell Labs tries to bridge the despair of a world where technology enables bullying, greed and surveillance; the optimism of the early hopes for the internet, and a hopeful vision of how we can minimize the former and maximize the latter. Read the rest

Even primitiver technology

You've seen Primitive Technology; now see Even Primitiver Technology. A fine spoof of an excellent YouTube series. Read the rest

Toddler stumped she can't work the 'touch screen' on her dad's Game Boy

Try and try as she may, this little girl just can't figure out how to play her dad's Game Boy Color. She really can't be blamed though, as she was born into a world where touch screens are the norm.

This reminds me of two things.

1. When my now-12-year-old daughter was about seven, I got a new laptop. I opened it, booted it up, and she immediately pawed the screen like it was an iPad.

2. It also reminds me of this viral video from 2011 of a baby trying to use a magazine like an iPad.

(reddit) Read the rest

Quantum computing’s terrifying promise

Hit Play, below, to hear a wide-ranging interview with venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, whose shrewd bets include backing Elon Musk in ventures like Tesla and SpaceX. Steve and I talk a bit about Elon in our interview. But we mainly focus on quantum computing - a subject he knows cold from his decade and a half on the board of D-Wave Systems, the world’s largest quantum computing company.

This is the fifth episode of my podcast series (co-hosted by Tom Merritt), which launched here on Boing Boing last month. The series goes deep into the science, tech, and sociological issues explored in my novel After On -- but no familiarity with the novel is necessary to listen to it.

Quantum computing’s potential to reshuffle the technological deck has long fascinated me as a science fiction writer. Its maximum potential is immense – and indeed, rather terrifying (after conferring with quantum computing’s brainfather, David Deutsch, the New Yorker famously decreed that “With one millionth of the hardware of an ordinary laptop, a quantum computer could store as many bits of information as there are particles in the universe.”)

That potential is also almost completely unfulfilled for now. Major breakthroughs in the field could therefore impact our capabilities in highly volatile ways. And sudden, discontinuous change is catnip to anyone whose job involves setting tech-driven tales in the present day.

In our interview, Steve and I discuss the fundamental weirdness behind quantum computing’s potentially awesome power. When asked about that power’s source, physicists generally offer one of two answers, according to Steve. Read the rest

Researchers encoded a film clip in DNA and store it inside a living cell

In an astonishing step forward in biomolecular computing, Harvard researchers encoded a 19th century film clip in DNA and stored it inside living bacteria. Later, they sequenced the bacterium's genome and decoded the film. From IEEE Spectrum:

To get a movie into E. coli’s DNA, (neuroscientist Seth) Shipman and his colleagues had to disguise it. They converted the movie’s pixels into DNA’s four-letter code—molecules represented by the letters A,T,G and C—and synthesized that DNA. But instead of generating one long strand of code, they arranged it, along with other genetic elements, into short segments that looked like fragments of viral DNA.

E. coli is naturally programmed by its own DNA to grab errant pieces of viral DNA and store them in its own genome—a way of keeping a chronological record of invaders. So when the researchers introduced the pieces of movie-turned-synthetic DNA—disguised as viral DNA—E. coli’s molecular machinery grabbed them and filed them away.

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